Monday, 24 March 2008

'Cursed' girl unable to escape crime

March 24 2008 at 07:09AM

By Lesego Masemola

Just when a Pretoria teenager Taryn Vermaak, 18, had built up enough courage to venture out after her family was robbed earlier this year, she was attacked in a popular mall.

Vermaak and her boyfriend Sheldon Kearney, 18, were about to leave Menlyn shopping centre on Thursday when they were approached by six unknown men.

"I was waiting for my mom to pick me up and we were saying goodbye to each other when they came. One of the guys asked what Sheldon was looking at. Sheldon asked the guy what he was talking about, then they started beating both of us up," said Vermaak.

'I was screaming for help and everyone was just looking'

Kearney said the gang pushed him towards the escalator on the third floor where they attempted to throw him off while kicking and punching him.

"I was screaming for help and everyone was just looking. I screamed for security but there was no-one. I just stood there feeling helpless as they all ganged up on him. It was terrible," said Vermaak who sustained bruises to her leg, arms and stomach.

Vermaak said 10 security officials finally pulled the gang off Kearney, who tried to defend himself with his motorcycle helmet.

"I thought they were going to kill me. When the security came, I ran away. I did not even see where I was running and ran into a plot plant," he said.

The couple were treated at a nearby hospital.

'I thought they were going to kill me'

"My jaw is still painful, so is the back of my head. My whole back was swollen and doctors could see shoe prints of how they kicked me. Fortunately nothing was broken," said Kearney.

Now the young couple are afraid to go out to any mall.

On January 2, Vermaak's home was robbed by four men who stole three cars, one of which was Vermaak's birthday present, jewellery, electrical appliances and clothing.

"They came and tied us up and said they were going to kill my father. They held us up for about four hours and they are still out there. They haven't been arrested," she said.

A few years ago, Vermaak was stabbed on her arm and robbed while walking from school.

Last year, her cellphone was pickpocketed from the Menlyn shopping centre.

"I do not feel safe anymore. After our ordeal during the robbery, I convinced myself that I have recovered from the trauma and went out with my boyfriend. Now look what has happened. I cannot take it anymore," she said.

Her mother Lien said her daughter believes she is cursed and does not want birthday presents anymore as they always disappear into the hands of criminals.

"It is not safe at home, not safe at malls. Where is it safe?" she asked.

Mike Kerkhoff, speaking on behalf of Menlyn Park shopping centre management and Old Mutual Investment Group Property Investments, said two men were arrested by police after a fight in a fast food restaurant on Thursday evening.

This article was originally published on page 1 of Pretoria News on March 24, 2008


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